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11.4 Thinking Like a Social Psychologist About Social Groups

This chapter has looked at the ways in which small working groups come together to perform tasks and make decisions. I hope you can see now, perhaps better than you were able to before, the advantages and disadvantages of using groups. Although groups can perform many tasks well, and although people like to use groups to make decisions, groups also come with their own problems.

Since you are likely to spend time working with others in small groups—almost everyone does—I hope that you can now see how groups can succeed and how they can fail. Will you use your new knowledge about social groups to help you be a more effective group member and to help the groups you work in become more effective?

Because you are thinking like a social psychologist, you will realize that groups are determined in part by their personalities—that is, the member characteristics of the group. But you also know that this is not enough and that group performance is also influenced by what happens in the group itself. Groups may become too sure of themselves, too full of social identity and with strong conformity pressures, making it difficult for them to succeed. Can you now see the many ways that you—either as a group member or as a group leader—can help prevent these negative outcomes?

Your value as a group member will increase when you make use of your knowledge about groups. You now have many ideas about how to recognize groupthink and group polarization when they occur and how to prevent them. And you can now see how important group discussion is. When you are in a group, you must work to get the group to talk about the topics fully, even if the group members feel that they have already done enough. Groups think that they are doing better than they really are, and you must work to help them overcome this overconfidence.